Thoughts on… Boxing Helena (1993)

Directed by Jennifer Lynch (a familiar film business surname, being David Lynch’s daughter), Boxing Helena (1993) is one of those films that you only really want/need to watch just once. It’s meant to be a romantic mystery thriller with a body horror twist, but the film’s reputation almost precedes itself. Its synopsis is as follows:

A top surgeon is besotted with a beautiful woman who once ditched him. Unable to come to terms with life without her, he tries to convince her that they need each other. She has other ideas, but an horrific accident leaves her at his mercy. (source)

Here is a selection of my thoughts on Boxing Helena:

  1. Why did I watch this? Because I’ve always intended to at some point in time. I’d heard about how strange and perverse it was, and I couldn’t help myself.
  2. Although I’ve never placed this on one of my Blindspot lists, it’s always lurked in the back of my mind as something to cross off of some sort of list. Maybe so that I could watch it and then never have to wonder about it again.
  3. Boxing Helena is a strange mix of exploitative, abusive, and the apparent intent to also convey a sense of female empowerment.
  4. It’s kind of like Misery (1990) but more sexual and basically mixed with cheesy 90s pornography, with a film score to match.
  5. At the same time, you can almost appreciate where Jennifer Lynch is coming from. The film wants to have a strong feminist backbone, combined with what seems to be a genetically inherited appreciation for the absurd, combined with a fairy tale-like quality which makes the film quite watchable.
  6. As to whether the whole package is successful, I wonder how you, the reader, would interpret a fairy tale about systematically removing a woman’s limbs in order to keep her house-bound and under your control.
  7. Sherilyn Fenn plays Helena as an extremely confident, beautiful woman whose irresistible nature is apparently the reason why her character deserves such a horrific fate (according to what the film tells us).
  8. I love Sherilyn Fenn. She was one of the best things about this film. I can’t wait for season three of Twin Peaks! Moving on.
  9. Julian Sands plays an awkwardly weak doctor whose obsession with the titular Helena leads to the above mentioned dark and abusive ends. The way the film is constructed made me wonder whether we are meant to feel pity for him. I didn’t, though.
  10. Art Garfunkel is in this, which is hilarious.
  11. The direction by Jennifer Lynch is quite beautiful. She seems to have a love of symmetry and symbolic visual motifs to convey the main themes of the story, such as birds in cages and limbless statues.
  12. This is the only film I’ve seen by Jennifer Lynch, so I am intrigued to see more from her.
  13. I also found it interesting that the cinematographer for this one, Bojan Bazelli, went on to handle the cinematography for horror remake The Ring (2002), which is a film I secretly adore.
  14. You can interpret Boxing Helena‘s frankly disturbing content in many ways. Even though Helena is held captive physically, she maintains strength and power over her captor.
  15. But still… yeah, I’m not going to ever need to watch this again.

2/5
Watch the trailer here.

5 comments

  1. This movies sounds pretty uncomfortable to watch.

    1. It’s super uncomfortable! Jennifer Lynch seems to have inherited the talent for creating uncomfortable films from her father!

      1. Interesting, must be a genetic thing.

  2. I remember watching it the late 1990s, and I still cannot get over this film. I was pretty young than and it was my first introduction to something quiet shocking and disturbing on screen. Now, in all honesty, I wish I didn’t see it – it just raised sky high the plank of what I would later call disturbing content on screen.

    1. It’s such a disturbing, unforgettable film. The levels of general unease are so high the whole way through. I have to say I’ve definitely seen more challenging films (Cannibal Holocaust is one… definitely not recommended by me), but this one is definitely up there!

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